Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Military

Candidate Evaluations: Jim Webb

Jim Webb has spun his way into the presidential race, so here’s his evaluation. I’ll be looking at Webb’s background, policy history, and explicit statements to determine whether or not he would make a good president. I won’t be paying attention to electability or likeability, as is often common elsewhere on the web. Read the rest of this entry »

Is It Morally Okay for My Little Brother to Work for a Defense Contractor?

As some of you might know, I have a little brother named Adam (he appears on the blog once in a while). Adam is one of my favorite people–he’s a remarkably kind, thoughtful, and gregarious person. If you met him, you’d like him. Just about everyone does.

Adam's on the left; I'm on the right

Adam’s on the left; I’m on the right

My little brother is studying at the University of Southampton in the UK, where he’s studying to become an aerospace engineer. Becoming an aerospace engineer literally is rocket science, and it’s not easy. Not only are Adam’s classes exceptionally grueling, but he needs to spend this coming summer doing an internship to get work experience and ensure that he’s competitive on the job market when he graduates. These internships are hard to get, especially if you want to be paid for your work. Recently, Adam was able to score a paid internship at a major American defense contractor. As a political theorist, this raises some interesting moral issues for me–no matter your position in international relations, it’s more or less inevitable that when you get involved in designing and manufacturing weapons, the weapons you make will be used in some conflicts you don’t agree with to kill people you don’t think deserve it. Is it okay with me that Adam wants to do this?

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The CIA Must Be Purged

With the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on the CIA’s use of torture, many people all over the world are shocked by CIA’s willingness to use techniques that are not only cruel but remarkably ineffective. It’s long been known that torture is an ineffective means of extracting information. As I wrote back in 2012, there is a lot of evidence out there that torture is not a good strategy for obtaining reliable information. And if you think about it, that makes sense–torture can make someone talk, but why should it make a person tell you the truth? It’s not as if you have an answer key or will know the difference. If you did, you wouldn’t need to ask the question in the first place. So in this respect, the senate report confirms what we already should know, though many Americans still have not caught on, according to Pew:

There’s something else in the report that is much more shocking–the extent to which the CIA deceived congress and the Bush administration about the program.

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Great Power Graphapalooza

In the course of doing my MA at the University of Chicago, I’ve had the opportunity to take a class from John Mearsheimer. Mearsheimer is one of the most widely renowned structural realists in the international relations game today. He disagrees with much of US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, lamenting the US’s decision to expend its energies maintaining large military presences in regions of the world that contain no threats to the United States. Mearsheimer calls for a strategy of offshore balancing, in which the United States only intervenes in critical regions in order to prevent those regions from being dominated completely by another state. Otherwise, he recommends the US save its strength. I found myself curious today about what many of the world’s region’s power relationships might look like if the United States were to withdraw militarily and allow the powers in those regions to engage in security competition with one another, and I have taken some time to run the figures and make a vast plethora of charts to share with you.

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“Never Again” and North Korea

Last week, the UN’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea released a harrowing report that claims that North Korea is a historically bad place in which to live. North Korea’s badness is “unparalleled in the contemporary world”, and the chairman of the UN committee, Michael Kirby, even went so far as to bring the Nazis into it:

At the end of the Second World War so many people said, ‘If only we had known, if only we had known the wrongs that were done in the countries of the hostile forces’…there will be no excusing the failure of action because we didn’t know–we do know.

The implication of his claim is that the world’s people are all complicit participants in the awful things that happen in North Korea because we allow those things to happen and do not take sufficient action to stop them. This claim, which I call the “Never Again” claim, is widely made whenever any great man-made violent tragedy occurs in the world. I’d like to challenge it.

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